What PPD Looks Like to ME

PPD

The time surrounding the birth of a new baby is full to the brim with emotions: excitement, anxiety, joy, pain, nervousness, relief, etc. People are constantly coming and going, and there are visitors, celebrations, congratulations, and new experiences galore. 

But when the dust settles and the sleep-deprived mama is left holding this beautiful newborn baby and the reality of all that’s transpired over the last nine months of her life comes to a head, the emotions that remain can seem overwhelming and difficult to comprehend, it can be extremely confusing and paralyzing. In a time when you picture yourself relishing in the aroma of your new “bundle of joy,” it can be hard to comprehend why you might be feeling anything BUT joy. 

While statistics regarding just how many women struggle with postpartum depression can be difficult to pinpoint, the fact is that many women suffer in silence. Postpartum depression can often be misunderstood as sleep deprivation, loneliness, or even just ones shortcomings as a mother. The fact is, there are so many emotional and physical changes that happen within a woman when she gives birth to a baby, it’s no wonder she feels out of whack. These changes can wreak havoc on our hormones, minds, and emotions, and postpartum depression (PPD) is REAL

As someone who suffered clinical depression in my late teens and early 20’s, I went into my first pregnancy aware that I was at a heightened risk for PPD. However, once my son was born, I didn’t have what I considered to be “typical” depression symptoms, so I chalked up my obsessive thoughts and extreme anxiety as “normal new mom stuff.” When it became incapacitating, with the urging of my husband, I finally decided to seek help. I learned that postpartum depression is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis, but it can manifest in many different ways: anxiety, depression, anger, sexual dysfunction, and obsessive and intrusive thoughts. Beyond that, PPD is not something to be ashamed of or merely suffer through, but can be diagnosed and treated under the guidance of your physician.

In an effort to help others avoid the “this doesn’t look or feel like depression so it must not be PPD” roadblock, I surveyed several diverse groups of women and ask them to put their own PPD experience into words. The quotes that follow are a sampling of what I heard.

“I felt like I was living in a fog. All I could seem to hear was white noise. I was going through the motions but I couldn’t feel anything. I would try to sleep but my heart would beat so fast it felt like I couldn’t breathe. I would wake up covered in sweat. I couldn’t listen to music or turn on the TV without being paralyzed by anxiety. I became obsessed with his sleep. I dove into books, the Internet, everyone I knew for their advice and suggestions. I couldn’t think or stop talking about anything else for months. My house felt like a cave I couldn’t escape. Everything felt overwhelming. I felt like a shell of my former self. I found myself in tears often. I wished away the days, I yearned for the first year to be over. I felt so much guilt over how I felt because I loved my son but everything; everything felt so out of control.” –Chelsea

“I got extremely anxious as the night hours approached. I started to get paranoid when my husband would fall asleep before me and resent him because he was sleeping so soundly. Every sound on the baby monitor made me jolt and I went on for months with rouge, restless sleep that made me feel nauseous. Even when my baby was sleeping I was awake, freaking out that I couldn’t sleep and getting worried that he would wake up the second I fell asleep. It was a crazy cycle and I felt trapped.” –Lauren

“I felt horrible guilt, because here was this precious, perfect, darling baby girl who slept through the night and was happy all day. But I wasn’t happy. As much as I loved her, I could feel myself slipping away. And I was silent about it, nobody but my husband knew. And it wouldn’t be until a few years later that I nearly hit rock bottom. I didn’t just want to be “mom” but I also still wanted to be ‘me’.” -Alyson

“I couldn’t keep up: the house was out of control, we were always well past the point of appropriate time limits between showers, I couldn’t button any pants of any kind, and I felt like I was mean all of the time when all I wanted to be was a loving mom/wife/friend–but what I thought of as “laziness” turned it to be a whole huge bunch of shame. I didn’t feel like I was good enough in any single area of my life.” –Erin

“(After having my second child) I was just afraid I had leaped too soon into having a second baby. I remember my first looking like such a grown up kid next to the newborn, and feeling an overwhelming guilt that I wasn’t soaking in every single second (due to my exhaustion of having a newborn). I was unable to sleep at all due to this guilt.” –Cailey

“I had severe anxiety: sitting with my baby looking just fine on the outside while silently seeing movie clip type scenes in my head of all these terrible things happening to my baby. To me. To my other child: Walking down the sidewalk and a car hits us. Finding out I had cancer and it was terminal. Watching our house on fire screaming that my baby was inside. I couldn’t turn it off.” –Jennifer

I still remember laying there in my bed after my second baby was born and silently sobbing. The nurse brought in this bundle and gave him to me to nurse, but I felt nothing but resentment. I looked at her and shouted through the tears, ‘I need someone to just take care of that baby so I can go home to my son.’ Looking back, that was a severe red flag that was missed.” – Sarah 

“Consider the thing you want to think about least in the world (like killing your child). Think about it. Replay the thought on a loop. Play it constantly and to the point where you have panic attacks and question whether or not you’re a danger to your baby. Beg someone to take your children from you so they’ll be safe. Stop sleeping and eating. Worry all the time.” –Kate

If you can relate to any of the above, or even if you can’t, but something just “doesn’t feel right,” please seek help from your doctor. 

You are not alone. There is NO shame. We are cheering for you.

**If you are struggling to figure out if you are dealing with postpartum depression, or are worried you won’t have the words to express what’s been going on when you see your doctor, consider completing this questionnaire and bringing it with you when you visit your doctor.**

Have you experienced postpartum depression? What did PPD look like to YOU? If you are open, consider sharing in the comments below — you never know how your words might encourage someone else to seek help.


If you or someone you know if a mom struggling with emotional complications during pregnancy or after giving birth, you are not alone. Our hope is that this upcoming mental health series brings you encouragement and support. We are enthusiastic and confident in our endorsement of Moms Mental Health Initiative and would love for you to explore their site to get connected to resources to help. 

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10 Responses to What PPD Looks Like to ME

  1. Partly Sunny May 3, 2016 at 10:55 pm #

    Resenting my husband for “getting me” pregnant. Resenting my baby for crying. Resenting everyone for saying, “these are the most precious times.” Palpitations and sweating while watching the hours tick by on the clock as everyone else in the house sleeps. Crying, crying, crying.
    Loving new sleep meds and antidepressant! Two months on them and sleeping at least five hours a night now. Life is sunny again.

    • Heather
      Heather May 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

      Partly Sunny thank you for your honesty. Yes – resentment has actually been a HUGE one for me this time – I find myself always looking for someone in my little family to blame for everything. SO GLAD there is awareness out there and professionals to help! So grateful you’ve gotten the help you need as well! Solidarity on the journey, mama!! <3 Hugs and prayers to you as you continue!!

  2. Meredith Phillips May 7, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    My PPD began after my daughtrr’s traumatic birth and persisted throughout my subsequent pregnancy. My babes are 13 months apart! After my son, things got much, much worse. You know how in cartoons there’s an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? The Angel is positive and encouraging and the devil is negative, deceitful and manipulative. For me, the Angel left the building. The devil was just there, a continuing loop of horrific things about myself and why I shouldn’t be my children’s mother. I took to self-harm. The rage was shocking – sometimes I would be unable to recall moments! The hardest thing was that my children were never at risk, I was. I was only a danger to myself. I never, ever want to feel that way again.

    • Heather
      Heather May 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm #

      Oh mama, I’m so sorry for your struggle! Sometimes we struggle for so long we start to think it’s our new “normal” — but isn’t it good to get help and realize, “oh! now I remember who I am!” I love your analogy of the devil and the angel and COMPLETELY relate to that as well. Thank you so much for sharing that powerful analogy as well as your struggle!! <3 The rage is absolutely shocking. The more women I talk to the more common I realize that is!! HUGS!

  3. Julie May 15, 2016 at 6:49 am #

    All of the emotional and mental symptoms that women have shared above, but not loud enough to make me seek help. It was the physical symptoms that were my wake up call. I started feeling like I was going to faint in large public places and especially while driving. Tons of medical tests later, and I read an article about PPA and PPD. I knew it was that. I couldn’t ignore any of the symptoms anymore. I got help, and the medicine and therapy worked! I was sure it wouldn’t happen again with my next child, so I refused AGAIN to see the emotional and mental symptoms until the physical symptoms began to manifest AGAIN. I waited so long this time, though, that I was having panic attacks even just at home, especially alone with the children. I finally got help, and it took longer, but it worked. I have promised my husband that I will go on meds as soon as the baby comes out if we have another child. Don’t let it get this bad, and it will if you let it go too long. If you have any of the symptoms discussed in this article, seek help. Hormones are crazy after a baby and can really mess you up. Don’t feel ashamed or weak for getting help. Just do it, get better, and move on with your life, enjoying your precious children!

    • Sarah
      Sarah May 15, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

      Thank you so much for sharing, Julie. It’s so important to be able to share these stories in the hopes of encouraging someone else. 🙂

    • Heather
      Heather May 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

      Julie, THANK YOU for sharing. Your openness has already helped one mama – ME!! In the midst of writing this, I was also dealing with physical symptoms that may very well turn out to be PPD/PPA in disguise! Aren’t our bodies crazy? They are SO powerful in SO many ways – amazing for developing these perfect babies, and so frustrating in the aftermath at times. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Monica May 15, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

    My PPD came on as anxiety and took over my life. I was suffering. I had intrusive throughts that played over and over in my head and I developed “ticks”
    I was mentally paralyzed and living in fear of myself. I was broken and afraid to be around my son at what was suppose to be an incredible time in my family’s life. The worst part was I had no one to turn to until my husband finally mentioned that I should talk to someone knowing that something was wrong, just not exactly what. I did not feel depressed I felt extreme anxiety, it consumed me. If I wasn’t depressed how could this be PPD? Well it was, and getting help was the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like even if I can help one woman understand that she’s “not crazy” and that you don’t have to suffer than I will shout my story to the roof tops.

    • Sarah
      Sarah May 15, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

      Thank you for sharing, Monica. Those intrusive thoughts are so surprising and so so scary. We are right there with you in that every story matters if it helps just one mom realize she can get better. Thank you!!

    • Heather
      Heather May 16, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

      Monica, thank you for sharing so openly, and for sharing the importance of getting help. It is so amazing how little we are told about the variety of ways PPD can show itself. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep shouting to the rooftops – I think we could be friends. 😉 Thanks SO MUCH.

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